Follow these tips to communicate better than ever.
You already have what it takes to have great conversations, but speaking in English can be really stressful. Perhaps you've had awkward conversations in the past that left you feeling anxious about speaking. Because of that, the idea of having a conversation in English might feel like walking onto a movie-set where everyone knows the script except for you.
Most people get caught in the trap of thinking too much about how they sound when what will truly make them better at conversation is paying attention to the other person. The key is to focus less on your own speaking and concentrate on showing interest by being an active listener.
Here are 5 things you can do to have better conversations in English.
1. Really listen to others
Have you ever realized that someone wasn't listening to you while you were in the middle of telling them a story? It leaves you feeling frustrated, annoyed, and maybe even a little sad.
That's why listening is the most important thing you can do to ensure that the conversation goes well and the person you are speaking to feels happy. It can help you relax to know that your conversation partner is feeling good, too!
One way you can show that you are listening is with body language. When you're nervous it is easy to become a little stiff which can come across as cold and uninterested. So, you might have to deliberately focus on this more than you would while speaking your native language. Nod your head and use facial expressions that show that you empathize with what they are telling you.
Another way that you can let them know that you are listening is to repeat what they are saying. It might sound strange, but simply confirming what you heard is a great way to show that you are interested and listening. Of course, don't do this excessively or you'll sound like a parrot. Sprinkle it in here and there.
😀 It was the best show I've ever seen.
😉 The best show - sounds great!
😀 Like nothing I've seen before, honestly!
2. Avoid giving a speech
Have you ever been on a date with a person who spent the whole evening telling you their life story without ever asking you a single question about your life? If this has ever happened to you, is it safe to say there was never a second date?
That's the definition of a one-sided conversation, which is when only one person talks. Rarely does anyone want to listen to a speech (unless you're famous for your storytelling).
For some people, talking too much is a thing they do when they are nervous. Do your best to pause to allow the other person to speak. You could ask the other person what they think or if they've had a similar experience. This all comes back to being a better listener.
Remember that a conversation is like a game of tennis- back and forth. It is not a series of small speeches.
3. Ask questions
To prevent a one-sided conversation, make sure you are not the only one answering questions! And remember to return the question after someone asks you about yourself.
Conversations come to a dead end when you don't ask questions. If you listen carefully to the details, you'll have questions to ask. For example, you might ask them to clarify or tell you more about something. Always make your questions open-ended. This means that the questions you ask cannot be answered with "yes" or "no".
And don't forget that small talk is important in many cultures, so make sure you participate be both asking and answering. Here's a list of typical small talk questions and answers to help you with your English conversations.
4. Be honest
If you don't understand, tell them that you don't understand. It is better to tell the truth than to pretend that you understood. Pretending could come back to bite you later!
Usually, people will be happy to explain once again, and if they aren't... well do you really want to speak with people like that?!
You can use these clarification phrases if you need to! This is another excellent way to show you're a great listener.
5. Let yourself make mistakes
Go with the flow and be present for the conversation!
If you are in your head too much about how you might embarrass yourself, it probably means you aren't listening. (Did you catch the ongoing theme here?) Even if you've been practicing English for years, you will run into situations where you forget a word, use the wrong word, and need to start your sentence over from the beginning.
It's okay, and it isn't a failure.
One of the worst things you could do for yourself is believe that you need to speak perfectly. Make the decision to let yourself make mistakes and laugh as you enjoy the ride that is the learning process.
Recognize your strengths (you're multi-lingual!) and watch this video if you need to work on building your speaking confidence.
A good conversation takes practice. Speak as often as you can with as many people as you can.
Sometimes conversation don't go well because you and the other person don't have a connection. Everyone has had that experience, so don't take it personally. We simply cannot be for everyone!
You'll find that the more speaking "risks" you take, the more you'll grow as a speaker of English.